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Match Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Sports Mole reviews the action from Camp Nou as late goals from Sergi Roberto and Luis Suarez give Barcelona a narrow 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Barcelona scored twice in the final 10 minutes to beat a spirited Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Camp Nou on matchday two of the Champions League.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos's first-half header was enough to give the Germans a slender, but deserved 1-0 half-time lead in their second game in Group E.

However, Sergi Roberto tapped home a hard-earned equaliser on 80 minutes, before Luis Suarez curled home the second moments later to add insult to injury for Leverkusen.

Here, Sports Mole analyses how the Catalans came from behind to snatch all three points.

Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates a goal with his teammates during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs Bayer Leverkusen at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 29, 2015.

Match statistics

BARCELONA
Shots: 17
On target: 9
Possession: 70%
Corners: 4
Fouls: 9

BAYER LEVERKUSEN
Shots: 9
On target: 3
Possession: 30%
Corners: 1
Fouls: 22

Was the result fair?

No. This was one of those nights where the statistics flattered a Barcelona side who could just as easily have lost the match. They were carved open regularly for the first hour or so and, if not for a wasteful Javier Hernandez, the result would have been far different. The Bundesliga side should be making the trip back to Germany tonight with at least a point and the hosts will know that just as much as Leverkusen.

Barcelona's performance

When asked how much Barcelona could miss the services of the injured Lionel Messi tonight, coach Luis Enrique said: "We now get to see what we are made of and I have no doubt that we will be okay." On the evidence of their first-half display, a Messi-less Barcelona are not made of much. They still had the likes of Suarez and Neymar on show, with Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta in support, but Enrique's men still lacked the spark without their go-to guy.

All eyes were on Sandro before kickoff as the young Spaniard replaced Messi. A nigh-on impossible task in itself, the youngster had the added pressure of tonight being his first Champions League start. Simply put, he blew it. With 12 minutes gone, the 20-year-old forced Bernd Leno into an excellent finger-tip save but, given that it came from 12 yards out, with no defender in his way, it should have been a goal. It proved costly. Ten minutes later, Hakan Calhanoglu's corner was nodded home from close range by Papadopoulos. It had been coming. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen blamed Suarez. Suarez blamed Ter Stegen, but the real culprit was Jeremy Mathieu, who did not even bother to jump.

The disparity in attitudes between the opposing teams' defences was epitomised before the break when Sandro looked certain to smash home from close range after Neymar's effort came back off the post, but Papadopoulos threw himself in front of the blast to preserve the Germans' lead. Desperate times called for desperate measures and Neymar was booked for diving.

They looked marginally better after the break as Leverkusen slowly but surely invited the pressure, with Gerard Pique missing the stand-out chance of the half when his header lacked the direction to trouble Leno. They kept knocking on the door and eventually found a way through, though. Second-half substitute Jordi Alba fizzed a teasing ball into the box which Leno failed to handle, and another sub in Sergi simply could not miss.

To Barcelona's credit, there was only one thing on their mind from then and the winner came moments later. Munir El Haddadi, who replaced Sandro, skipped by a couple of challenges before pulling back for Suarez, who curled into the top corner. It was a finish fit to win any match, but it merely papered over the cracks. They are a different side without the magic of Messi and, with the Argentine expected to miss up to six weeks, their season may just hinge on how quickly they adapt without him. They need to.

Bayer Levekusen's performance

With an average age of just 23, Roger Schmidt's side did more than enough tonight to suggest that their future is bright. Very bright. Returning to the scene of their 7-1 demolition just two years ago, Leverkusen exhibited no sign of scarring or trauma from that night as they took the game to the champions and, in truth, out-played them in the first half. It was a first half in which Bayer beat Barcelona at their own game, with the visitors subjecting their hosts to the kind of high-intensity pressing of which their success under Enrique and Pep Guardiola was built on.

Leverkusen were excellent without the ball, but they were even better with it and their goal on 22 minutes was nothing less than they deserved. Calhanoglu enhanced his reputation as a set-piece specialist with a truly brilliant corner, which Papadopoulos nodded home. It would have been understandable had Schmidt battened down the hatches from there, but the visitors smelled blood and kept coming, though they had to settle for a one-goal lead at the break. Prior to the half-time whistle, Papadopoulos threw himself in front of Sandro's close-range thump to preserve the advantage.

Those heroics stood them in good stead throughout a second half in which they were dominated, though Hernandez spurned a golden opportunity at the other end to make it 2-0. It was their last real chance and Schmidt removed the Mexican for Stefan Kiessling, and the superb Karim Bellarabi for Julian Brandt in changes that disrupted Leverkusen's fluency going forward. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno pulled off a number of decent saves, but it was his spillage on 80 minutes which saw Sergi prod home from close range. Moments later it was two and even some of the home fans would have found it hard not to feel sorry for them.

Still, there was a whole host of positives; not to mention the fact that Hernandez, at 27, was the oldest player in their first XI. They are certainly ones to watch throughout the tournament.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Kyriakos Papadopoulos: It can only be the Greek centre-back, whose first-half goal proved the difference between both sides until the 80-minute mark, but it was his defensive contributions, including an excellent on-the-line block, which his performance will be remembered for.

Biggest gaffe

Mathieu's defending for Leverkusen's opener was nothing short of pathetic and although a number of his teammates did not cover themselves in glory tonight, the Frenchman's half-hearted demeanor for Papadopoulos's goal is what sticks in the memory.

Referee performance

It was anything but quiet for referee Atkinson at times, with the Englishman booking seven players in total, but there were no contentious decisions and neither coach can reference his performance in a negative context during their post-match interviews.

What next?

Barcelona: The Blaugrana return to action this Saturday as Enrique and co face a tricky trip to Sevilla.

Bayer Leverkusen: The Germans return to the BayArena now and prepare to host Augsburg on Sunday afternoon.

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Barcelona's Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez celebrates a goal with his teammates during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs Bayer Leverkusen at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 29, 2015.
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